Posts Tagged ‘cloud practice management’

Navigating the Cloud – Pace of Innovation

LawCloudThe burst of innovation in law firm practice management is very exciting. It seems as if a new time and billing service is launched every week. Existing cloud vendors announce mind-expanding new features every month. Desktop vendors are busy trying to Cloud-Enable their software or build hooks into the cloud. When Frank Heckman lamented once that annual new releases of software was too fast for a software company to handle, he was wrong. It is in fact too slow. In the new cloud the expectation is quarterly releases, even monthly. How is this possible? This may seem too fast if annual is too often for a desktop installation, how can monthly be just right. The answer lies in some fundamental difference between cloud software and desktop software.

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TotalAttorneys – Cloud Based Practice Management for $1

Total Attorneys advertised practice management in the cloud for $1/month per user.  I recently came across Josh Campman’s review (Choosing Practice Management Software Part 1.5 of 2) and checked out their website  (TotalAttorneys.com).  I have not had a chance to review the offering, but plan to in the future.  For now though, I wish to note that price-points are not what they seem.  For many cloud-based practice management systems, there is a fixed fee that covers everything.  This is true for RocketMatter, Clio, and Houdini ESQ. For AdvologixPM, there is a base fee that cover quite a lot of features, but there are add-on’s for a few extra dollars a month per user. TotalAttorneys is different.

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AdvologixPM – The One Year Anniversary Review

It’s been a year since my review of AdvologixPM for Technolawyer (see Review: AdvologixPM: Web-Based Practice Management System,” Technofeature, December 15, 2009).  Since that time, I have spent a lot of time learning the Salesforce.com platform (completing several online courses) as well as working with AdvologixPM.  Basha Systems has signed on as a development partner and reseller, and now offers regular training classes on how to use and configure AdvologixPM.  On this “anniversary”, I wish to reflect on those features of the AdvologixPM platform that are “special”, if not “unique” and explain why Basha Systems has become an Advologix partner.

Basha Systems is an attorney-managed consulting firm focusing on delivering workflow and practice automation solutions for lawyers, whether they be in law firms, corporations, or small businesses.  We build “customized solutions” as opposed to “custom solutions” to give our clients the best return on their investment.

Customized Tools – Best of Breed

As part of this mission we have focused on best-of-breed tools that can be “customized” and “configured” to meet the needs of our clients.  We would rather be the “dwarf” standing on the “shoulders of giants” than build our own solution from scratch.  As such, we have identified certain case management programs, document management and document automation programs that together can empower our clients in ways that previously require whole teams of software engineers to accomplish.  We have built six and seven-figure solutions for fees in the five-figures.

This approach has led us to work with HotDocs, Exari, XpressDox, and DealBuilder/ContractExpress in the document assembly space.  From our initial focus on Time Matters case management, we have added expertise in Amicus Attorney and PracticeMaster, all programs that support extensive customization.  We have worked with Joomla and ExpressionEngine to build dynamic SEO-optimized websites for ourselves, and our clients.  We have entered the world of SAAS document management by building relationships with NetDocuments, DropBox, Box.Net and Google.  And we have entered the world of hosted mail servers as resellers of OwnWebNow’s .95/month hosted Exchange Server.  All these relationships have been driven by client demand for flexible and affordable solutions.

In starting The Virtual Lawyer group and the Future Automation (Documents, Data and the Cloud) group on LinkedIn, I sought to chronicle the “liberation” trend to freeing lawyers from their servers, their networks, from their very networks.  I have sought to build functioning and working communities; networks of people, rather than hardware.  And so this brings me back to my review of AdvologixPM.
Just as Time Matters has become the hub of all activity on many attorney desktops, AdvologixPM promises to become the hub of all activity on the “virtual desktop”.  In the past year, both Salesforce.com and AdvologixPM have changed.  If you remember, “Salesforce.com” is the platform, and AdvologixPM is the app. Both have grown and improved.

CHANGES IN SALESFORCE.COM

A New Skin.  Salesforce.com has a new more elegant skin.  The presentation of force.com is now less boxy and more colorful, with rounded edges, and more like a desktop program.

Visual Report Builder.  The report builder was incredibly powerful, allowing development via a series of wizards.  The new report builder is visual, easier to use, allowing you to drag and drop fields and see the results with a sample data set in real-time. It also supports creation of custom “data sets” that work like SQL joins, only easier.

Chatter.  Imagine combining a social networking tool with a real-time audit trail and you have chatter.  With chatter you can subscribe to contacts, matters, etc., get notified of any changes in data or status, and enter into threaded discussions.

Basha Systems Document Assembly Connector.  If you are considering workflow automation, the traditional way to connect is via merge templates.  However, a 3rd party application sold by our company ($1500/year for each ORG) allows you to configure HotDocs or any desktop document assembly system to connect to Saleforce.com, run dynamic queries, and use the data in desktop document assembly.

Integration with XpressDox Cloud-based Document Assembly Service (coming soon).  XpressDox has become the “little-engine” that could.  The desktop tool is “free” and unlimited; pay only if you want support or updates.  Basha Systems will soon be offering Salesforce integration services connecting Advologix/Salesforce fields to a cloud-hosted web-versionof XpressDox.  Pricing is yet to be determined.

CHANGES IN ADVOLOGIXPM

Inheritance.  Advologix functions like a desktop program with “object-awareness”, the ability to “inherit” values from the active object and to automatically attach new records to the active record. This means when you have a matter record active on the screen, if you add a bill slip, it already knows the staff, matter, account and contact.

Smart-Lookup Lookups are the glue that keep a practice management system together.  Most lookup fields are now “smart”.  They remember the history of most recently asked records.  Quick search on all lookup is fast.

Home Page.  In the middle of last year Advologix introduced a navigator on the home page.  This visual interface with icons, arrows, and hyperlinks gave the new user one way to navigate through all the record types, as well as quick access to instruction and help text.  A separate tab for Advologix setup also gave the user access to back-end setup and configuration.  With each release new features appeared on this tab. and actions that are part of a practice management system, front office and back office.

QuickStart.  In a preview of the next release I recently saw the Quickstart navigator replaced by a dynamic quick start guide with extensive step-by-step guides.  Picture a comprehensive manual embedded with hyperlinks to actual program functions.  These links access custom wizards and other items normally buried several layers deep in the force.com setup menus.

New Billing Workflow.  One of the weaknesses of Advologix last year was their time slip workflow and invoicing, including support for “contractors”.  There have been substantial improvements over the last year and a full refresh due out in 1st Quarter, 2011.  Improvements include the addition of “Time Keepers” which now include both internal staff and contractors.  Rate tables have been streamlined.  Expense and time records have been merged into a single billing record. Rates can now be at the firm, staff, or matter level.

New Invoice Template Designer (Coming soon).  Advologix included hundreds of options for deciding what information went on an invoice and how it was presented.  That wasn’t enough for a number of users.  In the next release, users will be able to engage a specialist to create a “custom invoice”, adjusting everything from font size, to graphics, to layout, including custom fields, rules, and more.

Advologix Bootcamp

I have just attended a 2-day bootcamp with Advologix in Cary, NC.  Paul Deschenes, founder of Advologix, led us on a deep dive into the product and the Force.com platform.  The attendees were many people you know, people who have shaped the way high-end practice management is delivered today.  Steve Best recently blogged on his experience.  I will let others reveal themselves.

What I can say is that this boot camp opened up many people’s eye to the potential of cloud-based legal practice management. It demonstrated the power and potential of delivering a system on the Force.com platform.  More on that later.  In the coming months you are likely to hear much more about Advologix and how it will be changing the game.

New Players in the World of Document Assembly and Case Management

For the past few years, the world of document assembly and practice management as be S.O. (or same old …).  There have been a number of interesting upgrades to existing products.  There have been some exits (notably GhostFill).  There have been a few acquisitions (Lexis’s purchase of PCLaw and Juris, to name a few).  Into this “void” there are 3 new players who I will be examiniing: Zunesoft (maker of WordFusion, a document assembly platform), RocketMatter (www.rocketmatter.com) – a cloud-based legal practice management system- and Clio (www.goclio.com) – another cloud-based practice management system.

The CLOUD, for those who don’t know, is a word for software services that are made available through the internet where the data is stored, not on your server, but the server of the software service provider.  It is called the internet CLOUD because in the cloud you cannot see where the data is actually stored.  And, in practice, the data may be stored on dozens of different machines in multiple locations, and can be accessed from anywhere.  More on these systems later.

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